Instagram has kept its feature set so minimal that it’s allowed other apps to come in and snatch up some pretty obvious wins. Our latest favorite is Pixifly, which lets you search public Insta photos by time and place using a handy map interface. Once you get a taste, you’ll wonder how you Insta’d without it.
“The hashtag is flawed, so Pixifly is another way to navigate content and give you perspective on what’s going on out there,” says co-founder Adam Cooper, 23.
The iOS app works with the Google Places API, so all you have to do is hit Current Location or type in an address or general name such as “Empire State Building,” and Pixifly will pull up all the public photos taken within a certain distance of that spot (for distance, you can choose anywhere from 100 feet to 3 miles away). In terms of a time period for the search, you can choose “right now” or go back to a specific day and hour anytime in the past eight months.
Like most people would, the first thing I did with the app is peeped at my current surroundings. I typed in 520 Third St. in San Francisco with a 500 foot radius, hit Right Now and saw what all the people at Wired and our neighbors like Strava were posting. I expanded the search area to a mile and came across a picture of someone eating a delicious sandwich at a deli. Pixifly gave me the location of the photo on the map so I could head there myself.
I used the app to explore the suburban neighborhood where I live and came up with absolutely nothing of interest. But the potential is there to track down new vista spots or cool non-business sites nearby.
The app also has the potential for more serious searches. Cooper says journalists, for example, can use Pixifly to track down photos from events that are newsworthy but maybe too small to generate their own hashtags. Need to see photos from that fire downtown last night? Just specify the hour and the address, and the app will gather everything that was shot and shared publicly.
During the protests in Ukraine, Cooper says the app was useful for him because it could call up all the public photos from Independence Square, not just those with a trending hashtag. Plus, many of the important hashtags were in Ukrainian, so Pixifly eliminated the need to know the language.
At large events that do develop a clear hashtag, like the Super Bowl, Pixifly can make sure you see only photos from the stadium. You’re still going to get an endless stream of selfies, but at least they’ll be stadium-specific selfies, instead of Super Bowl-watching selfies people snapped from their couch or some random bar.
Theoretically, small-business owners can put the app to use by typing in their location and watching what people are saying, like restaurants, tracking down photos from their address to see if that new dish is a bomb or a hit. I hope the businesses I frequent care this much, but it seems like a long shot.
At the moment, the app is available only for iPhones and iPads, but an Android version is likely on the way. Pixifly wouldn’t share how many downloads it’s had, but it’s probably not likely to become the main way people engage with Instagram. That said, for the specific uses I detailed, it’s a robust and useful tool.
“There were opportunities being missed, and we’re trying to fix that,” Cooper says.
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